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Showing posts from 2009

Hello, 2010!

I haven't posted anything since December 22?

That's what crossed my mind as I logged in this morning. What can I say: I went into hibernation for a few weeks, which was easy to do since it's been so cold here in North Carolina. We're expecting a high of 35 degrees today, and the seven-day forecast could be one of the coldest in recent memory. (I know, I know...anyone north of the 45th parallel is laughing at me.)

I hope you had a wonderful, relaxing holiday season and that it was everything you wanted it to be.

Now it's time to move on to 2010, which I hope will be better than the suck fest that was 2009. Apparently, I'm not alone in my 2009 angst, either. For the record, I will pronounce it as "two thousand ten" instead of "twenty ten" as is being suggested in some quarters. I'm not sure why I can't bring myself to say "twenty ten," but there you have it. Deal with it, haters.

Lately I've been pondering the entire 1999-200…

Holiday Workplace News Round-up

Ahhhhhh, it's almost Christmas, the most wonderful news dump of the year! Here are a few news threads catching my eye this week:

Yahoo! Ho! Ho! Yahoo employees will be taking an unpaid week off next week, unless they still have vacation days to use.

The U.S. "pay czar" approves executive compensation packages for the CEOs of U.S. taxpayer-funded companies GM, GMAC and Chrysler with salaries far above the $500,000 pay cap, not including options. A Treasury official says the exemptions were offered because these are "exceptional cases."

Straighten up and fly right: The FAA is reminding its employees not to act like drunken hooligans in public.

Poison arrow: Tulsa-based trucking company Arrow announces that it's suspending operations immediately, apparently stranding truckers all around the country after Arrow disables their gas cards at the pump. In other news, competitor Link America is now hiring.

Happy Knew Year: Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell orders his cabinet…

Portrait of an Entrepreneur

When you hear the word "entrepreneur," what comes to mind?

For many people, it's the image of a young, brash guy (sorry, ladies) with nothing but an idea, a dream and no family obligations to hold him back.

A new Ewing Marion Kauffman survey of 549 company founders debunks this stereotype of the average entrepreneur, however. Among the findings:

Roughly 70% were married when they started their first company, and 60% had at least one child;

40 was the average age for starting their first company;

They tended to have at least six years of experience working for someone else before they went out on their own;

47% have advanced college degrees;

More than 90% are from either middle class or lower-middle-class backgrounds.

So while there's a place for the Gen Y Harvard dropouts of the world, the majority of first-time entrepreneurs are actually Gen Xers or Baby Boomers with mortgages, kids and garbage cans to cart to the curb.

The survey also reveals that being risk averse is the …

Darth Vader Opens NY Stock Exchange

Darth Vader opened the New York Stock Exchange this morning. Let's go to the videotape:

I'm laughing because it's so rich with symbolism. You know, going over to the Dark Side, the Evil Empire, good guys vs. bad guys and all that stuff. I think Darth Vader and his posse of stormtroopers should have opened the stock exchange every day this year. It would have been so fitting.

Calgon, Take Me Away...

What a week. Christmas cards yet to mail, emails to return, blog posts to write, a few presents yet to buy, two young children home on holiday break.

At least everyone I know is in the same boat.

I didn't get to my Monday workplace news round-up yesterday because I took our oldest child to see "The Princess and the Frog." She loved it. Of course, now she wants a Princess Tiana Barbie-sized doll for Christmas. I should have seen it coming.

There's been some controversy surrounding the movie, but I thought it was very well done. I would see it again, and I can't say that for every animated movie out there.

Anyway, I will try to work up a post later today. Hope everyone is surviving the holiday madness.

Back to the chaos...

Friday Workplace News Round-up

Here are some headlines catching my eye today:

A judge approves $50 million in bonuses for Lehman's derivatives employees based on their unique skills. those skills include driving their company into bankruptcy?

Meanwhile, another judge tells California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that he can't make the state's prison guards take unpaid furloughs.

Sneaky, sneaky: Is the U.S. Senate aiming for a Christmas Eve vote on the health care bill?

Authorities are on the hunt for a stolen laptop that contains personal data on 42,000 U.S. solders, family members and Department of Defense employees.

Profits at General Mills are up 50% in the last quarter, thanks to strong sales of Chex cereal, Yoplait yogurt and other products.

Go long, or go home: Four Fidelity Investment employees get fired for playing fantasy football at work.

A new Regus study finds 44% of global companies plan to hire more part-time working moms over the next two years. Smart move.

We longer accept checks: The U…

Have You Gotten Vaccinated for H1N1?

I got my H1N1 vaccination this morning. It's been on my "to do" list for months, and I'm glad I finally did it.

So far, I haven't spouted a second head or turned into a werewolf, but I'll let you know if things change.

My husband also got vaccinated, as well as our two young kids, who I think will forgive me eventually.

My motivation level to take care of it rose after reading this local news story about a UNC-Chapel Hill freshman named Lillian Chason who died the other day from H1N1 complications. Chason didn't have any pre-existing conditions before she got sick. By all accounts, she was very healthy.

A doctor interviewed for the story points out a scary statistic: One-quarter of the people who have died from H1N1 had no risk factors (e.g., pre-existing conditions) that would make things worse. In other words, they were completely healthy - no diabetes, lung problems, etc. - before they fell ill.

Here's a TV news story about Lillian Chason's condit…

CFOs Plan to Keep Cutting Jobs

The latest Duke University/CFO Magazine study is out, and it's not very encouraging.

1,431 CFOs participated in the survey. It finds that CFOs are more optimistic about their company's long term growth, but they still plan to cut jobs in 2010. They also plan to outsource more jobs. These CFOs don't expect to lift furloughs and pay cuts for at least another year, either.

But the worst news? Two-thirds of these CFOs don't expect their companies to get back to pre-recession hiring levels until 2011 or "later." Holy crap.

What are CFOs worried about?

CFOs’ top economy-wide concerns include weak consumer demand, federal government policies, price pressure and credit markets. Top concerns about their own businesses include maintaining profit margins, difficulty planning due to economic uncertainty, employee morale and liquidity management.

The U.S. Government better keep that checkbook handy, because the line for unemployment benefits could get longer before it gets sh…

Wednesday Workplace News Round-Up

Monday's workplace new round-ups are so much fun, why not do one on Wednesday, too?

Do U.S. federal workers owe more than $3 billion in back taxes? Apparently, employees at the Department of Housing and Urban Development owe a lot in back taxes, while employees at the U.S. Department of the Treasury owe the least.

Smoking 'em out: 400 Reynolds Tobacco Co. production employees in North Carolina accept a buyout to leave the company by 2011.

Gov. Patterson (D-NY) gears up to offer workplace protections to transgendered workers at state agencies.

Nice touch: Some bosses are visiting military bases to see off their reservist employees.

New research finds employers are worried about a brain drain as Baby Boomers retire. Psst, employers: Gen Xers are chomping at the bit for these jobs, so train them already. Then again, 401(k)-strapped Baby Boomers won't be retiring anytime soon, so nevermind.

Seeing red: British grocery chain Tesco apologizes for making fun of kids with red hair. Ser…

Ancient City Discovered on Sea Floor

This is off topic, but fascinating.

Scientists say they have discovered the outlines of an ancient city on the Caribbean sea floor. They won't reveal its exact location yet.

The scientists, who are remaining anonymous, believe the city could predate the Egyptian pyramids. They say it's not the fabled city of Atlantis, however.

Why so much secrecy? I can see withholding the location of these ruins to ward off poachers, but why wouldn't someone want to take credit publicly for his or her work as a scientist? That seems strange. I hope it's not a hoax.

Anyway, you can check out the photos and make up your own mind here.

Brrr! Thermostat Settings Affect Productivity

There's a casual dining restaurant we used to go to quite often. Emphasis on the "used to," because it was always too damn cold in there. If it's 95 degrees outside and you're wearing a parka while you eat your sandwich, then there's something weird going on.

We'd walk in to this restaurant and immediately get hit with a strong gust of Arctic air that took my breath away. In fact, I was pretty sure I could see my breath sometimes. We brought sweaters to wear, and we'd sit and stare enviously at the people who were lucky to snag an outdoor table.

Even my husband thought the restaurant was too cold, and unlike me, he doesn't have the circulation system of a reptile.

As I shivered and ate, I wondered if the manager had relocated recently from Siberia. I also wondered what it would be like to work there. I didn't think I'd last very long, because the temperature would affect my productivity.

It turns out I'm not alone: In a new CareerBuilder…

Monday Workplace News Round-up

Here are some headlines catching my eye today:

International recruiting company Hays reports a significant drop in salaries for new positions across seven industries. Construction, property and accounting are the hardest hit.

A new National Institutes of Mental Health survey finds only about half of U.S. teens and children with a mental disorder are receiving treatment.

Want to know which major U.S. employers the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved for H1-B visas in 2009? Computerworld breaks down the numbers and even provides a data base where you can do your own company search. Nice.

The U.S. Supreme Court announces it will hear a California case regarding how much access employers should have to workers' text messages.

E-gads! Facebook surpasses email as the most popular way to stay in touch with friends.

Newspapers may be on the decline, but they're still kicking online's ass when it comes to coupons.

Being a columnist is so easy, anyone can do it. I mean, any…

There's Something in the Water...

...and it's nothing you want to drink.

It's being reported that 53 employees at the Kaiga nuclear power plant in India have been treated for ingesting a radioactive isotope that was added to the company's water cooler.

The substance, tritium, has glow-in-the-dark properties that are used to light up the hands inside watches. It's also used for making nuclear bombs.

So far, the culprit is unknown, but all signs are pointing to a disgruntled employee.

Check out The Times (U.K.) story about it.

I hope these employees are feeling better. Scary stuff.

Let's Party Like It's 1999

It's been a crazy week. I needed to escape for a few minutes.

Where better to go than the halcyon days of 1999? Come with me and relive the magic, and the naivete, of that year in this December 1999 CNN business segment called "The New Economy: Boom Without End?"

It's funny how 1999 seems like only yesterday, but yet a world away at the same time. One of my favorite memories of 1999 is being too lazy to find my 5-pound arm weights (yes, I'm wimpy). Instead, I would reach for a few business magazines on my desk, since they weighed about 5 pounds each back then. I got a pretty good workout, actually. True story.

I also remember asking start-up entrepreneurs for their company sales figures. To this fledgling business reporter, sales figures seemed like the key measure of company success. What were their sales like? Would they give me an idea of their quarter over quarter sales growth, etc.? Inevitably, there would be a few seconds of stunned silence after I asked the…

Meet Me Onli...Er, In the Conference Room

A new Watson Wyatt survey asks 328 employers about their plans for using social media to communicate with employees.

65% say they plan to use social media more often in 2010. Roughly 78% say they've increased their use of electronic communication over the last two years, and 48% are using less paper to communicate with employees. Score one for the environment!

But these employers still love in-person meetings more than social media.

73% say they prefer to communicate company performance through a staff meeting.

58% say they prefer to communicate pay changes in person.

48% say they prefer to talk about job security face to face.

Employers go on to talk about the challenges of using social media to communicate with employees. 36% don't feel their company has the IT know-how and technology (seriously?). 40% say they don't know enough about it (this is possible). 45% say they lack the staff or "resources" to make it happen (again, seriously?). I didn't know posting som…

"What Keeps You Up At Night?"

A fired Bank of America employee has taken to You Tube to say there was "something inherently evil" about her job, which she claims required her to charge $15 "convenience fees" among other things.

She goes on to offer her take on the inner workings of Bank of America during her time there. Many are praising her at a hero. What do you think?

Monday Workplace News Round-Up

Companies in a new Watson Wyatt survey say pensions are hurting their ability to respond to the recession.

U.S. gas prices fall to $2.64 a gallon on average. Cheyenne, Wyoming has the lowest per-gallon price at $2.38. Anchorage has nation's most expensive gas at $3.28 per gallon.

Yahoo! cancels its lavish year-end party.

The great online migration: 4 in 5 senior executives say they will get most of their business news online within the next five years.

Rolling Stone magazine is getting into the restaurant business. Because restaurants historically do so well during recessions.

1 in 4 Bulgarians say they've had to bribe a government employee to get a need addressed.

Don't bother with a bow: National Retail Federation says 55% of U.S. adults want a gift card for Christmas.

Survey finds women are more compassionate about others during the holidays. I'll throw in anxious and overwhelmed.

TD Ameritrade says Americans are ready to start saving for retirement again in 2010. I'l…

Surviving in a Survivalist Economy

I'm having a good day so far. I brewed some great-tasting coffee, new unemployment numbers show employers shed fewer jobs last month, and my Oregon Ducks are going to the Rose Bowl to give Ohio State a tutorial in how football is played.

But the new underemployment numbers are harshing my mellow. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 9.3 million Americans are working part-time jobs to make ends meet - an all time high.

These jobs pay the bills but don't allow these workers to apply what they know, and there's no hint they'll get back to using what they know anytime soon.

Talk about depressing.

I have tremendous sympathy for these workers, because it happened to me during the 1990s recession. I know first hand how it feels to be painfully overqualified for the job you're currently doing. You do what you have to do to make ends meet, however.

And when times are tough, you feel lucky just to have a job, grateful that an employer was willing to take a chance on hiring…

25% of U.S. Households Don't Use Banks

A new FDIC study finds one-quarter of U.S. households are stuffing money underneath the mattress instead of going to a bank.

25.6% of U.S. households use conventional banks very little or not at all. That's about 30 million U.S. households.

More than half of black households fall into the "unbanked" and "underbanked" categories.

9 million U.S. households don't have checking accounts. 41% of these households say they never plan to open one.

So how are they conducting transactions? They're more likely to rely on payday lenders, money orders, pawn shops and paying in cash.

You'll find a full copy of the report here.

Ouch: 5 People For Every Online Job Posting

The Conference Board is reporting that online job demand increased by 106,500 in November.

That means there are more online job seekers than online job postings.

As of this moment, there are roughly 3,386,000 U.S. jobs posted online. Sounds great, but the Conference Board calculates there are 4.8 (can't we just round up to 5?) unemployed people for every online job posting. Ouch.

There are a few bright spots in the Conference Board's new report, though.

Demand for workers with computer and math science, sales, business and finance skills keeps growing. There are also openings for "Healthcare support" occupations, whatever "healthcare support" means.

There's also a "modest uptick" in labor demand over the last four weeks in New York, New Jersey, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. The Northeast had the biggest increase in online labor demand last month. Massachusetts lead the way with 16,000 online jobs posted in November.

Labor demand i…

Lights, Cameras...Picket Signs?

Tonight is NBC's annual holiday special that features celebrity guests and the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.

This year's show has an added twist, though: A subset of 3,000 unionized writers, producers and technicians are threatening to boycott tonight's show over stalled contract talks.

They may even strike during the tree lighting.

The show has been a ratings winning for NBC in years' past, and the network says the show will go on. This is showbiz, folks.

The union, meanwhile, has unveiled a website called, which features a Seuss-esque anti-NBC poem.

I already can't wait to see how 30 Rock incorporates this into a storyline.

Update: The union decided to stay on the job during the show, despite NBC's "failure to bargain fairly with them."

Consumer Reports Knows What You Hate

What really pisses you off?

Consumer Reports knows. It's just published a top 10 list of what really annoys people - or Americans, in this case.

Without further ado, here's the list of the top 10 things Americans hate the most. Drum roll, please...

1. Hidden fees
2. Not getting a human being on the phone
3. Tailgating
4. Drivers who use cell phones
5. Incomprehensible bills
6. Dog poop
7. Unreliable Internet service
8. Discourteous cell phone use
9. Waiting for repair people to show up
10. Spam! Spam! Spam!

The results are based on a September survey of 1,125 Americans who were asked to rank 21 general annoyances on a 1 to 10 scale. The survey also looked at what annoys Democrats vs. Republicans, older people vs. younger people and rural people vs. urban people.

I like how cell phones show up twice on the list.

The women surveyed were generally more irritated than the men. Topping the annoyance list for women are speeding drivers, having to remember PIN numbers, and products that "ma…

Is Freelancing Worth It Right Now?

Companies are outsourcing more projects to freelancers.

That's the good news.

The bad news? Many of these projects aren't worth doing.

Case in point: The other day, I heard about a publication looking for freelancers to write 1,000 word articles (2-3 pages) on health care topics for $25 an article. Hell, I'd shell out more than that just to buy the coffee necessary to power me through such demanding subject matter, never mind the phone and babysitting overhead costs such a project would incur.

In other words, it's not worth doing. Too bad.

I got a kick out of this freelance job listing that touts itself as a "fun job for out of work journalists" and pays 0.00175/per word once training is over (it pays even less during training). Yes, 0.00175 per word. In total, it would amount to a paycheck of around $210 to edit a 120,000-word manuscript.

I wish I could say that such projects are the exception instead of the rule. The prospect of actually losing money on project…

Monday Workplace News Round-up

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I ignored my own holiday menu plan and bought a turkey. We'll be working our way through tons of turkey leftovers this week. Hope your holiday weekend was memorable and relaxing.

Now it's time to get back to work. Here are a few headlines catching my eye today:

Another survey reveals 35% of wealthy investors plan to jump back into the real estate market over the next two years. The United States - surprise! - will be the most attractive market for new property investments.

Adding it up: A new survey finds 42% of consumers would be willing to put up with more ads in return for subscription discounts.

More Americans shopped on Black Friday than last year but they spent less.

Down on the corner, out in the street: Americans who no longer qualify for unemployment benefits are turning to day laboring.

Do you know that today is "Cyber Monday," the online equivalent of Black Friday? Everyone get keyed up!

Does the Senate's health care bil…

Gen Y Reclaims the Guest Room

13% of parents in a new Pew poll say they've had an adult child move back in with them in the last 12 months.

1 in 10 young adults (between ages 18 and 34) say the poor economy has forced them to move back in with Mom and Dad. Another 12% say they've gotten roommates instead - anything to keep from moving in with Mom and Dad, I guess.

I spoke with a hiring expert not too long ago who told me that it will take members of Generation Y 10 years to get their careers back on track after this recession. He pointed to my generation, Generation X, as going through the same thing after the downturn of the early 1990s. I have to agree; the early to mid 1990s were tough for us Gen Xers. The dotcom boom made up for lost time -- for a little awhile, anyway.

But 10 years to get their careers going? Man, the Gen Yers could be living at home for awhile. Hey, parents: You might want to hold off on converting your child's bedroom into a guest room...

The Streets of San Francisco -- in 1905

I came across this music video based on actual footage filmed in downtown San Francisco in 1905, about a year before the 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed much of the city.

It's surreal to watch all these people - probably all long dead by now - going about their day.

Watching the video also made me realize how temporary things can be, and how much our lives have changed within 100 years. It's really quite astounding. And if you think driving in downtown San Francisco is crazy now, wait until you see this video.

The tall building at the end of the street survived the 1906 earthquake and is still standing today. It's called the Ferry Building and is home to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, which sells organic food.

I can't help but wonder what the people in this video would have thought about fancy markets that sell food taken directly out of the ground without pesticides and processing, and the consumers who are willing to pay a lot of money for it. To them, organic w…

Monday Workplace News Round-up

Here are some headlines catching my eye today:

Well, so much for that idea! IT survey concludes most workers aren't ready to work remotely in a crisis.

A Canadian IBM worker on paid sick leave for major depression has her benefits yanked after photos of her having happy fun times turn up on Facebook.

A new study finds one-third of workers are willing to steal company data to help a friend or family member get a job.

A recession by any other name is still a recession: Survey reveals one in five Americans were already living the recession lifestyle before the government officially called it a recession.

60% of employees currently working say they plan to seek a new job and 21% are already networking.

A group of economists announces U.S. GDP growth will be higher than expected in 2010, but will little or no job growth.

The price of gas is dropping in the United States because Americans can't afford to fill up their tanks.

No free lunch: Poll finds people in 27 countries are skeptical ab…

Employees Are Ready to Bolt

A new Right Management survey of 904 employees finds that 60% plan to find a new job as soon as they can, and 25% are actively networking and updating their resumes.

Only 13% intend to stay with their present employer.

Okay employers, you'd better get your act together and start re-recruiting your employees. But it might already be too late...

Is the Recession Making Us More Ethical?

A new report out today from the Ethics Resource Center says employees have gotten more ethical during this recession. Bring on the nice!

The number of employees who have seen misconduct on the job fell from 56% in 2007 to 49% in 2009, according to ERC's report.

But that still means roughly 50% of employees think they have seen some sort of unethical behavior at work this year. What are they witnessing, exactly? According to the report:

15% have seen retaliation

14% have seen discrimination

10% have seen improper hiring

9% have witnessed stealing or theft

7% have seen sexual harassment

The report also finds that retaliation on the job has actually increased this year. Interesting.

You can find the report here.

Hands Up! Office Burglaries Are On the Rise

The poor economy is resulting in more criminals targeting offices.

Now that I think about it, I've noticed an uptick in stories about retail employees taking down customers who try to shoplift at their stores. The idea of robbing cube farms in broad daylight is a whole new angle, however.

Anyway, it's just another side effect of the recession for employers to ponder.

New Report: U.S. Leave Policies Fall Short

I can't seem to kick this damn cold.

I've been under the weather for over a week now coughing, wheezing and leaving a Mt. Everest of used Kleenex in the garbage can.

It could be a lot worse, I guess. At least it's not H1N1. I work at home, too, so I can dress like a bag lady and no one cares. There's no pressure to show up at work because I work at home. I don't have any co-workers to sicken, either. Self-employment still has a few benefits, even in this bad economy.

Maybe that's why a new Harvard/McGill University report is catching my eye today. It finds - yet again - that the United States lags behind the rest of the world in offering benefits from sick days to parental leave.

From the story:

Of the world's 15 most competitive nations, 14 mandate paid sick leave, 13 guarantee paid maternal leave and 12 provide paid paternal leave by law, they said. Eleven provide paid leave to care for children's health and eight provide paid leave for adult family car…

Monday Morning Workplace News Round-up

Here are some headlines catching my eye:

The recession has made Gen X even more restless and pissed off and ready for Boomers to retire.

NPD Group survey reveals 37% of U.S. consumers plan to buy all their Christmas gifts on sale. I'm surprised the figure isn't higher.

67% of non-profit executives think traditional media coverage is more effective for fundraising that social media.

Is Time gearing up to name Twitter its Person of the Year? Because annointing "You" (the American consumer) and driving the point home with that silly reflective mirror wasn't annoying enough, I guess.

Not phoning it in: Nokia's technology workers in Finland threaten to strike.

It's starting to dawn on companies that good employees might leave so they'd better try to keep them. I think it might be too little, too late for some companies.

U.S. charities can look forward to dismal giving levels this holiday season.

NASA Space Shuttle employees start their countdown to unemployment

Was Charla Nash On or Off the Clock?

I've been under the weather lately with a bad cold, and it's kept me up at night coughing.

So there I was, hacking and wheezing on the sofa at 4 a.m. the other night, when I found a recent episode of Oprah on our DVR player. I cued it up and started watching.

What I saw was startling.

It was the story of Charla Nash, a Connecticut woman mauled in February by a 200-pound chimpanzee named Travis. Not just mauled, eaten. The chimp ate her face off, as well as her hands. Oprah interviewed Ms. Nash, who for the first time unveiled her disfigured face (caution: very graphic and disturbing video).

Travis belonged to Ms. Nash's friend and employer, Sandra Herold. Apparently, Ms. Herold had called Ms. Nash to ask for her help getting Travis back into his cage. Ms. Nash showed up at Ms. Herold's home-based business and somehow survived the 12-minute attack.

Now her family is suing Sandra Herold for $50 million in damages. The family is also suing the State of Connecticut for $150 mi…

ED Drugs & Harassment Lawsuits

I'm hearing whispers of an emerging workplace trend in sexual harassment lawsuits being filed against older male employees who are taking pills to treat ED, or erectile dysfunction.

Apparently, some older men are letting their minds and hands wander at work when they start taking these pills, and they're getting slapped with lawsuits.

I haven't seen any numbers yet to back up this "trend," but it's an interesting workplace dilemma if true. Stay tuned.

What's in Your Suggestion Box?

A new CareerBuilder/Harris Interactive survey asks 2,900 hiring managers to share the strangest requests employees have stuffed into the office suggestion box.

Here are a few:

Can people change their clothes in their cubicles?

Can we put a tanning bed in the break room?

Could the HR person wear nicer shoes?

Can jail time be covered under family medical leave?

You'll find more golden nuggets here. Enjoy.

In Honor of Veterans Day

On Monday, President Obama signed an executive order meant to increase the number of military veterans who work for federal agencies.

The executive order establishes an inter-agency council called the Council on Veterans Employment that will help match veterans with job openings. The council will track hiring trends and keep the president updated.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki will chair the council.

At least 24 federal agencies are gearing up under the new initiative, including the Department of Homeland Security, which just launched a new hiring website for veterans.

Hiring of veterans has increased a little bit in recent years. We'll see if this initiative brings more job opportunities to those who have served our country so well.

H1N1: Coming to a Law Near You

On Friday Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced H.B. 3991, which would require employers to offer up to five days of paid sick leave annually to employees who exhibit symptoms of a contagion such as the flu.

The legislation, entitled the Emergency Influenza Containment Act, would also extend paid sick leave to employees told to stay at home after being exposed to someone who is contagious. Companies with more than 15 employees would fall under the new law.

Employers who don't comply would be in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and would be subject to financial penalties.

The H1N1 virus is specifically mentioned in the bill.

If passed, the new law would expire after two years if Congress doesn't renew it.

Democrats in the House are already disagreeing over the bill's provisions, however. Critics argue it gives employers too much power over who gets to stay home, among other things.

Here's the full text of the bill, which is actually quite concise (two pages) …

Small Employers to Cut Gift Giving

The holiday season is almost here. For small employers, it means deciding which gifts to give to customers and employees.

Enter the latest American Express OPEN Small Business Holiday Monitor, a survey of 516 small business owners, which finds 11% drop since last year in the number of small employers planning to give gifts to employees. 13% fewer plan to offer year-end bonuses. Almost one-quarter (23%) won't give gifts to customers, either.

Most employees will understand that budgets are especially tight this year. They'd rather keep their jobs than get a new day timer or engraved pen, anyway.

Employers can still find cheap ways to show employees and customers their appreciation this holiday season, even if it means emailing holiday cards to customers and holding a potluck lunch for employees.

Even better, ask employees how they'd like to celebrate the holidays this year. To make it more fun, you might hold a company-wide contest where employees submit ideas that stay within …

Monday Morning Workplace News Round-up

Here are some headlines catching my eye today:

Fears over H1N1 are changing business etiquette.

New study finds Brazil, Finland and France offer the most employee vacation time. The United States is near the bottom of the list. Canada comes in last place. Canada?

TGI...M? Mercer study concludes Monday is the most popular day for U.K. employees to call in sick. January is the most popular month to skip out on work.

U.S. worker productivity increases at fastest pace in six years. Fear of losing one's job is a good motivator to work harder.

Employers grappling with employees who show up at work with H1N1 symptoms for fear of losing their jobs.

Study concludes workers feel eight to 10 years younger after they leave a crappy work environment.

The U.S. Census Bureau is looking to hire 1,000 temporary census takers in West Virginia.

Rep. George Miller of California introduces HR 3991, which would require employers nationwide to offer five days of paid sick leave to employees sent home with …

Tragedy in Orlando

Yesterday, we had the shootings at Fort Hood in Texas.

Today, a workplace shooting is being reported at an office building in Orlando, Florida. So far, seven people are thought to be wounded and two are dead. The gunman (or woman) is apparently not in police custody and shots are still being fired inside the building.

Update: It's being reported that an ex-employee walked in to a company and opened fire.

It's a terrible reminder of what a powder keg the workplace has become in this economy. Stay safe, everyone.

Aluminum Foil is the New Plastic Wrap

We won't be buying very many Christmas gifts this year.

My husband and I have agreed not to buy a present for each other so we can spend a little more on the kids. We'll send a few small gifts to our parents and the youngest nieces and nephews. Otherwise, we're keeping a tight lid on spending this season.

I'll also clamp down on any impulse to "do up" the holidays.

Will I buy a few new Christmas ornaments this year? No.

Splurge on a Christmas light covered, head-bobbing reindeer for the front yard? Nope.

Purchase a skirt for the Christmas tree? Um, no.

Invest in some new holiday cookie cutters? I don't think so.

Snap up a snow globe that swirls snow and plays music when I press a button? Maybe next year.

I might cruise a local upscale thrift shop (oxymoron?) to see if I can find these items for pennies on the dollar, but I may walk away empty-handed depending on what's in stock. That's life when there's still month at the end of the money.

We're t…

Americans Want Better Healthcare Billing

A new TransUnion survey of recent hospital patients finds most of them can't decipher their medical bills.

A major surgery is scary enough without the cascade of never-ending, obtusely-written medical statements that pour in piecemeal for months afterward. Going through the mail can become a nerve-wracking experience. Why can't patients receive one all-encompassing bill that breaks down -- in layman's terms -- all the services they're being billed for? It doesn't seem like it should be that hard to do. Or is it?

USA: Land of the Hearing Impaired

The National Hearing Conservation Association is petitioning the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to lower acceptable noise standards in American workplaces.

NHCA says OSHA's 30-year-old noise exposure regulations are out of date and out of touch with present-day hearing research. It's asking OSHA to lower the acceptable decibel limit in U.S. workplaces from 90 to 85, which has become the global standard for maximum workplace noise exposure.

NHCA would also like to see OSHA extend these regulations to the construction, agricultural, shipbuilding and oil and gas industries. These noisy industries are not regulated for noise levels.

The Better Hearing Institute estimates 24 million Americans have untreated hearing loss, and two-thirds of them are under the age of 65.

You can access NHCA's letter to OSHA here.

Companies Think Temps & ICs are Useless

A new Manpower survey is out today, saying that more than 60% of companies worldwide don't view contingent labor -- e.g., temps, independent contractors, consultants -- as critical to their success.

54% of companies surveyed say they don't use contingent employees at all. Those who do employ them are using them for seasonal work, or for replacing employees on leave.

Manpower concludes that technology companies are the "savviest" at utilizing contingent employees.

Manpower surveyed 61,000 employers, who evidently view contingent labor's impact on their companies the same way they might view using an umbrella in a hurricane. Why bother?

Temporary employment is down, and Manpower -- surprise! -- encourages employers to consider utilizing contingent workers as the economy pulls out of this death spiral. If we ever has a repeat of the hot labor markets of the late 1990s, employers will have no choice.

Monday Morning Workplace News Round-up

Here are some headlines catching my eye today:

Administaff's 3rd quarter earnings slide 51%. CEO says the company is "pleased" with its financial results.

Hey, put some clothes on! Gartner predicts that 70% of companies will have behavior guidelines and dress codes for online avatars by 2013.

Pentagon auditors tell Iraq contracting firm KBR to cut its headcount or pay $200 million for having too many people on payroll.

Built Ford tough? Ford has cut 45% of its North American workforce since 2006. In other news, Ford's Canadian employees just agreed to further pay cuts, while U.S. workers reject Ford's latest offer.

New Hewitt study finds half of workers who left jobs last year cashed out their 401(k)s.

In a new Universum survey, business and engineering majors say Google is the most desirable place to work.

Medical marijuana. Workplace. Combine the two, and you have a growing workplace problem.

Laid-off employees are blogging about their former employers and -- surpris…

Holiday Party? What Holiday Party?

Continuing the holiday theme of my last post, the Challenger, Gray & Christmas annual holiday survey is out today.

Among the findings, 62% of companies surveyed will host a holiday party this year - down from 90% in 2007.

Companies hosting holiday parties will be cutting their party budgets up to 20%. Goodbye, fancy off-site location. Hello, conference room!

Some employees might be bummed they won't get to do the Macarena wearing a Santa hat. Other employees, however, will be stoked that they can preserve their dignity by not having to do the Macarena in a Santa hat. It's a mixed bag.

And just because I feel like it, here's the Macarena. It is Friday, after all. Enjoy!

More Employees To Give Thanks This Year

A new BNA survey asks employers about their Thanksgiving leave plans.

It turns out employers are planning to be more generous this year.

Nearly eight in 10 surveyed (79%) will treat Thanksgiving Day and the day after as paid holidays this year - a 6% increase over 2008 and the highest percentage since BNA started tracking employers' Thanksgiving leave plans in 1980.

Check out more numbers from the survey here.

Where Have You Gone, Roseanne Barr?

A new study looks at the jobs women hold on fictional television compared to real life. The title of the report is "Where Have You Gone, Roseanne Barr?" - a reference to the hit 1990s television show, Roseanne. Roseanne, as you may remember, was an unglamorous housewife living in a working-class neighborhood.

The study, conducted by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress, finds that the top five jobs for female TV characters are surgeon, lawyer, police lieutenant, district attorney and cable news pundit.

However, the top five jobs for "real life" women in 2008 were secretary, registered nurse, elementary middle school teacher, cashier and retail salesperson.

Quite a difference, no? I won't get into the feminist arguments of the study, but I will say that Hollywood writers need to broaden their workplace settings beyond police stations, law firms and hospitals because they've become so cliched and boring. A show about a cashier or retail salesperson…

The Age of the "Amafessional"

Political strategist Mark Penn - who coined the term "soccer mom" - has come up with a new one: Amafessional. That is, amateurs who are rivaling professionals in a number of fields. Think of bloggers vs. journalists, self publishing vs. going through a traditional publisher, putting your own songs on websites instead of getting a record deal.

From the article:

Struggling amateurs used to want to become stars, and of course some still do, but this new phenomenon is different. Millions are participating just for the fun and challenge of it–-almost like running in a marathon. "Amafessionals" include both the amateur/professional hybrid and pajama professionals, who often work at home rather than the studio or the office.
I have to admit, my first thought was: He's only realizing this now? This trend has been going on for quite awhile; it's just that the current economy is forcing millions of unemployed people to do something with all the time on their hands. Why …

Workload is the Scariest Part of Employees' Jobs

As my kids keep reminding me, Halloween is on Saturday.

With that in mind, CareerBuilder just released its Halloween survey of 4,000 U.S. workers in which it asked them which Halloween character best reflect their bosses' character, and which parts of their jobs scare them the most.

20% of employees say their boss most resembles Glenda the Good Witch - a compliment, really, since Glenda is kind, likable and helpful. So 1-in-5 employees think the boss is essentially a good person.

It goes downhill from here, though. Here's the rest of the list:
11% said the boss is like The Wolf Man, fine one minute, howling the next10% said The Invisible Man, because the boss is never around
9% said Casper the Friendly Ghost, because the boss is eager to help, but is often misunderstood
6% said Dracula, because the boss is constantly sucking the life right out of you
5% said the Wicked Witch of the West, because the boss is always conniving and sending out minions to do his/her dirty work
4% said The …